Fall 2014 (28.3) Essay

Ethical Enhancement in an Age of Climate Change

In this essay I explore three questions that capture the broad outlines of climate concerns. First, what is the nature of climate change as a global problem? Second, what frustrates humanity’s ability to respond? Third, what can be done?

The character of climate change is such that it would be naïve to think that humans can easily solve it. Despite significant domestic and international efforts over the past few decades, greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise and show little sign of abating. Given this fact, moral action must be understood not exclusively in instrumental terms—as if it were simply a tool in the service of climate stability—but as an intrinsically worthwhile undertaking. Climate change offers the opportunity for humans to care about each other and the nonhuman world in new ways. Accepting this invitation can enable people to practice moral action independent of whether their efforts actually make a material difference. This is important since the window for promising mitigation and adaptation efforts is quickly closing. The world is dashing toward greater and more devastating climate intensification. Nonetheless, opportunities for moral action abound. Embracing these opportunities may well come to define what it means to be fully human in an age of climate change.

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